There’s an abyss opening beneath my feet. This time however I’m prepared. I may be about to go down the rabbit hole of depression, but I’m taking a lamp, and a good strong rope with me. This time I’ll not be left lightless at the bottom. Third time’s the charm…
The darkness and doubt that depression entails cause me to question everything I think, and feel, and do. It’s exhausting, but I know that given time, I will return to the light, and to myself.
It occurred to me then that I’ve never really quantified why I write, even to myself. And I’ve thought about it, long and hard, when sleep has refused to be my friend. So. Why do I write?
For the longest time, when I was a lot younger, I had a feeling that I would do it, one day. There was of course, the obligatory bad teenage poetry, and a few short stories. I did not show them to anyone. Later, I burned them. They were a false start, I thought then.
By my mid-twenties, when I began to be happier, after my first – and worst – encounter with the abyss – I began to feel as if I was marking time, waiting for something else to happen first. I got the idea – I’ve no idea from where – that perhaps, after I’d had a child, I might begin to feel free to write. I mentioned this to several of my friends at the time; they urged me not to waste time, that having a child was only ever a complication for creativity. I did not believe them. I still don’t. Perhaps I only ever needed to give myself permission to write, but I honestly think that I simply was not ready, then.
When my daughter was two years old, I began to write. I was in the middle of studying for my degree, and the Open University was running a new course, a creative writing course. I did it, of course. And I found within me the fire of writing. Nothing compares to it. (Well, maybe one or two other things compare, but we won’t go into that here…)
Now I have to write. Have to. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing, no matter what else I may appear to be doing. (Again, there are one or two exceptions, but… you get the point. I don’t need to draw diagrams, or to spell it out.) Being in a position to write, and yet being unable to do so, is absolute hell. It’s like being stifled, unable to breathe.
Does that make any kind of real sense? It doesn’t feel rational, but it does feel vital, necessary. Writing, like love, is a form of divine madness. Not writing, is… unthinkable. Writing, like love, is an obsession. And when it goes well, it’s the best kind of fun, flying, not falling.
There are plenty of blogs out there, by better writers than me, on the connections between creativity, depression and madness. This one, for example. And I am tremendously lucky in the friends I have, fellow travellers on the writer’s road. We keep each other company, cheer each other on, commiserate, empathise, understand. If you want, you can visit some of their blogs – just scroll through the blogroll here. You will be amply rewarded. So I’ll leave it there, I think, before I start spiralling.